For James Cunningham Sargent

on his 80th Birthday - February 26, 1996 


by Felicity Blundon



You have always been there

Strong and reassuring.

A firm, warm handhold

When as a child in the dim past

We would go together, you and I

To Virginia in the spring.

Following the rippling, rural road south

Into deep, sweet-smelling countryside.

And, there, while you at podium stood,

I was a quiet artist,

Crayoning colorbook masterpieces

In the back corner of the room.



conjures up images of rowing together

Across our glimmering lake.

Of a great white tent flapping

In a Nova Scotia gale.

Or a still, blue one at midnight in Wyoming

As bears roamed about

And Daddy saved the day

With blaring horn and blinding headlight.



You rolled up your jeans

And gamely boarded a sinking craft.

An ambitious fisherman,

Drifting about a glacial lake

In a summer snowstorm.

I can see you there still, elf-like

In your red hooded sweatshirt

While your children lurked in the shadows

with pack horses

Anticipating freshly caught trout

Sizzling over camp fire.



I recall the slapping of waves

Against stone steps off the pier

And the light glinting off rosy palazzos

As we waited for our dear father.

And then all of a sudden,

We could see him,

Healing over the vaporetto gunnell

Waving jubilantly.

We were together again.


For a time and for ever.


And at nightfall that same July day,

We boarded a gondola

And guided by jaunty gondolier

Skimmed through a maze of canals

To the strains of guitar and harmonica

Resounding off steep, stone walls.

A moment frozen in time.



How about taking tea with me in Woodstock?

But how to get there?

Perhaps we'll walk or hitch a ride.

Father, in boater hat and papillon,

Reclining 'neath hedgerow

Inhaling deeply of the English spring

While young Oxfordians

Hailed a ride.



Do you remember

The sudden madcap desire

To join the dance one night?

Off to The Plaza we then raced

Concealing cloaks in stairwell

Before parading grandly into The Grand Ballroom

Just in time for the midnight waltz



Such times, though distant,

are palpable and enduring.

But you are forever strong and tall,

In our hearts and minds -

A constant in our lives.

Your spirited way of life,

Your great vitality are

Theme and credo for us all,

Assembled here to honor you

And give thanks for this rich legacy

That is so dearly ours.

And for the myriad gifts

Our father has given us

Over time.

Dona Nobis Pacem